Is there an export ban on coronavirus vaccines in the US?
There are no formal prohibitions on the export of vaccines or vaccine ingredients, such as syringes, flasks, and filters. They are free to export the items needed by vaccine manufacturing companies or other authors around the world.
However, Washington has used wartime power known as the Defense Production Act to force private companies to comply with contracts before other orders. This has led to complaints from manufacturers elsewhere in the world, such as the Indian Serum Institute, that they cannot buy items that would normally be imported from the US. In normal times, the US is the main exporter of syringes and needles, according to the OECD.
U.S. officials have defended the use of the DPA. “Vaccines require a lot of specialized material, and there isn’t enough to walk around,” an administration official said this week. “More global manufacturing is happening around the world where suppliers can now support it.”
Separately, the US has a large stockpile of Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccines purchased at the beginning of the development process. Until recently, he refused requests from other countries to share these jabs.
So why has the US exported so few doses?
The Joe Biden administration said it would not send vaccines to other parts of the world until there were plenty of supplies in the U.S., and the focus was on getting shots in the arms of the U.S..
Biden said in a speech to Congress on Wednesday: “We will become an arsenal of vaccines for other countries, just as America is an arsenal of world democracy….[But]all Americans will have access beforehand. ”
As supply has risen, the administration has come under pressure to share its repository, especially AstraZeneca vaccines, which are not yet approved in the U.S.. Some administrations are worried that they will need more doses in the future to deal with new strains or to deliver annual booster shots.
What is the impact of the Defense Production Act?
DPA has been used dozens of times to ensure that manufacturers prioritize the medical equipment needed to deal with the pandemic. N95 masks, gowns, syringes and flasks have been procured under the terms of the DPA, which will allow the government to order which contracts should be fulfilled first.
One of the consequences of this is that pharmaceutical companies have warned hospitals that they expect a shortage of certain drugs a year because the equipment commonly used to produce them has been targeted at making equipment and medicines to combat Covid-19.
The DPA does not allow the administration to block exports abroad, and officials have said it is difficult for foreign vaccine producers to obtain the ingredients because of high global demand. As a result, the Biden administration said this week that it will send works to supply AstraZeneca vaccines to India.
Is there anything to stop the Biden administration from sending the finished doses abroad?
Industry executives and government officials said a clause was included in the original contracts signed by the Donald Trump administration and vaccine officials, which banned the government from exporting its doses. Officials said drug manufacturers wanted to protect this clause from claims made in the U.S. to protect them from lawsuits against foreigners outside the country.
Paul Mango, a former deputy chief of staff in the Trump administration, said: “The president can’t even export them without somehow making sure they don’t have any responsibility when the pharmaceutical company leaves the country.”
Biden officials would not say how they overcame this legal hurdle when they agreed to export a 4m dose of AstraZeneca vaccine to Canada and Mexico and another 60m to the rest of the world. But the answer may lie in the complex arrangement for Canada and Mexico, as the doses are being technically “borrowed” because the two countries will later return the doses made in their own countries.
Will the Biden administration be approved with the suspension of vaccine patents?
India and South Africa have presented a proposal to the World Trade Organization in Geneva to revoke countries ’patent rights on temporary pandemic-related medical products. The proposal is supported by 60 countries.
While the Trump administration opposed the renunciation of intellectual property rules, along with the United Kingdom, the EU and Switzerland, chief trade official Kiden Tai Biden shook the U.S. pharmaceutical company out of appearing to revise that position.
His office said the agency was “examining all avenues” and “evaluating the effectiveness” of the waiver, and Tai told the WTO he was interested in “finding out how once again the market failed to meet health needs.” developing countries ”.
Proponents of the Intellectual Property Rights Trade Party or Travel’s rejection of the WTO’s IP rules said a temporary suspension of the rules would allow more developing countries to make copies of the vaccines without fear of being prosecuted. IP violations.
Pharmaceutical companies, however, are completely opposed to the refusal, as the lack of manufacturing capacity available to them results in bottlenecks, rather than IP protections.
Will this be enough?
Experts warn that even if the waiver is allowed, much more will be needed to ensure that the rest of the world has enough vaccines. Many people in particular demand that those who produce mRNA vaccines help create manufacturing centers abroad, given that their technology is the best way to deal with new variants.
“We need to set up vaccine manufacturing centers, with technology transfer, to get the mRNA vaccine up and running elsewhere,” said Tom Frieden, former head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “MRNA vaccines are much less prone to production delays, they are much easier to adapt to to obtain variants, they are probably safer and more efficient, and they start producing faster. Something like this needs to be done today.”